Thru-Hiker Through and Through

I’m a thru-hiker,  I backpacked the 50 miles of the Selway River river trail from end to beginning. A Wild and Scenic River located in the Bitterroot Selway Wilderness.  I celebrated National Hike Naked Day and I destroyed a library book (see previous post).  And…..I’d do it all again.  It was pretty epic.

Most people would consider my starting point the end point since I hiked upstream.  I don’t think it would matter too much which end you start on.  The Selway river loses 4000 feet in elevation from the ‘put in’ to the ‘take out’.  But that’s in 50 miles and with all of the up down and down up of the trail, you hardly notice the difference of upstream vs downstream. I would have to assume.

My group started at Race Creek.  Two of us got an early start and the other three started a few hours later only due to some logistics and mostly due to me trying to get a cooler start for optimal migraine management (OMM).  Jenn and I hiked from 9:00 to 5:30.  We got caught in one rain shower which made the afternoon cooler and was one reason we hiked for so long on day one.  My fitbit said I went 17 miles.   My new Topo Trail Runner Shoes were light and comfortable.  It was totally not their fault that I slipped on a wet rock while filling my water bottle, soaking both feet.  Walking in wet socks and shoes for two more hours did bring on a few blisters.

We spent the first night at Tango Creek.  A group of rafters were camped across the river; their groover in direct line of sight of our camp.  (See “Last Call for the Groover” post for explanation of “Groover”).  The next morning was chilly.  But in a light weight one person tent I could stay in my sleeping bag, tie back my tent door and operate my jetboil.  From the comfort of my down sleeping bag I was able to make tea and breakfast and read some of my destroyed yet lightweight library book.  The sun finally peaked over the mountain and warmed up our site but everything was covered in dew.  I packed my damp sleeping bag, wet tent and put on my wet socks and shoes.  We hit the trail, our other group had not caught up with us yet.

Day two was hotter and sunnier.  My fitbit clocked us at just over 10 miles.  The skies were clear.  The river and creeks were raging and the mountains were a deep forest green.  It was beautiful.  I was surprised how high the trail could be over the river.  Having a birds eye view of the rapids made it easy to pick the line I would take if I were in my inflatable kayak. We stopped in a cool shaded cedar grove for a break from the heat and and a break from carrying our packs.  We continued on the hot trail and I finally saw my first rattlesnake.  It was not as I had imagined.  The snake said, “oh, sorry, just crossing the trail here; pardon me.”  We replied, “no hurry, we don’t mind waiting for you to cross.” She was very cordial.  Not threatening or scary.  I think I must have watched Mattie fall into the rattlesnake pit on “True Grit” at an impressionable age.

My blisters had grown.  I felt new ones forming.  But, help was on the way.  We arrived at 2:30 at the Moose Creek landing strip.  At 3:00 our husbands (mine and Jenn’s) landed on the grassy wilderness runway.  There are no roads in the wilderness, but there are several landing strips. There were already about 10 other planes there with people camping out.  We happily greeted our men who had taken 30 minutes to arrive.  We had driven 4 hours and hiked 2 full days to get to the same location.  They brought cold beverages, cheese, smoked salmon, fruit, presents and my boots.  Dry boots.  Not just dry boots, but water resistant boots, boots that had hiked the Grand Canyon with no blisters.  And presents?……  Yeah.  Call me spoiled.  Brett bought two different kinds of gaiters for me to try and a rain poncho that fits over a backpack.

The rest of our group caught up with us that afternoon.  There was plenty of cold drinks and snacks for everyone.  The guys packed up and flew out as we were getting our camp set up for bedtime.

Day three brought a nice early start.  I bandaged my blisters with mole skin and medical tape.  We trekked through the wet grassy landing field to the historic Moose Creek Ranger station and back onto the trail heading to Bear Creek; our camp for the night.  Fitbit recorded 14 miles for this day.  We also met our down river group around 11:30.  That was the plan. We would swap keys when we met and drive each other’s cars home.  The shuttle for this trip is 255 miles on winding mountain roads many of which are gravel.  It costs $390 to hire a shuttle driver.  Creating two groups to meet and swap keys cost nothing.  It was genius.  We talked briefly.  Mostly about the injured mountain lion that the other group had seen an hour before on the trail.  Two hours later, the mountain lion was still on the trail.  Our group determined that she was old and looking for a place to die.  She didn’t move off the trail for us either.  We bush wacked our way up the mountain and around her continuing our way up river on this overcast, hot and humid day.  Bear Creek was a beautiful camp.  We made a big fire, had dinner and when the clouds started to sprinkle rain at 7:30, we hurried to our dry tents and fell asleep.  Not much of a celebration on the longest day of the year.

Day four was long.  The sun came back out as we hiked another 14 mile day. Our average age was 61.  The range was 55 to 70.  Our average weight (without packs) was 120 pounds.  You can tell the miles were getting to me as I spent time creating and calculating math problems.  I was enjoying the break from electronics, news, emails, facebook and the threat of Coronavirus.  Left to my own devices.  My brain.  Telling stories to the others.  Listening to their stories.  We passed Selway Lodge and Running Creek Lodge until we arrived at Waldo Bar our final camp.  Oh, and…. two of us hiked naked.  I recommend it.  Just boots, gaiters and a hat.  Our lone, token male stayed behind a respectable distance and did not celebrate National Hike Naked Day (Or…. maybe he was).   Would I do that again?  Actually, we are thinking about publishing our own hike naked calendar.  I’ll let you know how that goes.

On this last night one of the women in our group had run out of reading material for the night. (I would rather run out of food).  I took out my library book in which I had ripped off the front and back covers to make it lighter.  I tore out pages one through 19 and gave it to her.  I also read, out loud, the introduction of the book to those who were still by the fire.  The next morning, she read the introduction out loud again.  It’s that good.  I highly recommend John Steinbeck’s “Travels With Charley”.  This non-fiction book takes place in 1962 and is about his travels across the United States in a camper with his dog Charley.  Very interesting to read his take on the state of the United States in 1962.  I recommend “Travels With Charley”.

Day five was a short 5 mile hike out.  I stopped at every point on the trail and watched the river; not wanting our hike to end.   Happy that I had completed this dream hike with just a few blisters and a few mosquito bites on my ass from hiking naked.  Happy of the dynamics of my group and the new stories we now had to share.  Happy to spend so much time outside and so many nights sleeping on the ground.  It is my happy place.

In the last blog post, in which I told you I was not going on the Selway backpacking trip, I  gave you a taste of the introduction to “Travels With Charley”.  This time I’m giving you the whole thing.  Enjoy.

Steinbeck’s intro from “Travels with Charley”

“When I was very young and the urge to be someplace else was on me, I was assured by mature people that maturity would cure this itch. When years described me as mature, the remedy prescribed was middle age. In middle age I was assured that greater age would calm my fever and now that I am fifty-eight perhaps senility will do the job. Nothing has worked. Four hoarse blasts of a ship’s whistle still raise the hair on my neck and set my feet tapping. The sound of a jet, an engine warming up, even the clopping of shod hooves on pavement brings on the ancient shudder, the dry mouth and vacant eye, the hot palms and the churn of stomach high up under the rib cage. In other words, I don’t improve; in further words, once a bum always a bum. I fear disease is incurable. I set this matter down not to instruct others but to inform myself.

When the virus of restlessness begins to take possession of a wayward man, and the road away from Here seems broad and straight and sweet, the victim must first find in himself a good and sufficient reason for going. This to the practical bum is not difficult. He has a built-in garden of reasons to choose from. Next he must plan his trip in time and space, choose a direction and a destination. And last he must implement the journey. How to go, what to take, how long to stay. This part of the process is invariable and immortal. I set it down only so that newcomers to bumdom, like teen-agers in new hatched sin, will not think that they invented it.

Once a journey is designed, equipped, and put in process, a new factor enters and takes over. A trip, a safari, an exploration, is an entity, different from all journeys. It has personality, temperament, individuality, uniqueness. A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing, and coercion are fruitless. We find after years of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us. Tour masters, schedules, reservations, brass-bound and inevitable, dash themselves to wreckage on the personality of the trip. Only when this is recognized can the blown-in-the-glass bum relax and go along with it. Only when the frustrations fall away. In this a journey is like marriage. The certain way to be wrong is to think you control it. I feel better now, having said this, although only those who have experienced it will understand.”

More great book selections and adventures can be found on Wild About Books.

One thought on “Thru-Hiker Through and Through

  1. Sounds exhilarating. And maybe a little excruciating. Your writing on the subject is excellent. (I assume I get points for the alliterative adjectives? Ha!)

    Liked by 1 person

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